Photo by Jason Carlson // Words by Alex Distefano
As one of the most venerated and enduring underground death metal bands, Long Island, New York’s Suffocation has been pummeling the hell out of its fans with technically proficient brutality for over three decades.
Even with their longstanding tenure and their influence on the genre that has resonated with fans around the world, Suffocation is far from resting on their laurels. The band still sounds on fire. The release of the band’s ninth full length album, entitled Hymns of the Apocrypha is proof that age and experience loans itself to expertise when it comes to the Suffocation brand of speed and instrumental intensity - especially during the band's live performances.
Suffocation’s longtime guitarist and songwriter Terrence Hobbs took time before the band’s recent set at the LA's 1720 to speak to Knotfest about the band’s new album, their release tour with fellow New York death metal pillars Incantation, and how the evolution of the metal/hardcore scene.
At the onset, Hobbs also wanted to make one thing clear: Suffocation is much more than just him. “Over the past few years there’s been press for the band and it seems that these outlets only want to interview me,” Hobbs said. “It got frustrating, this is the first interview I’ve done for the new album. But I’m here to let everyone know that Suffocation works as a unit and it’s not just me; we’re a band of brothers: Ricky Meyers, our great vocalist, on bass Derek Boyer, our drummer Eric Morotti, and our guitarist Charles Errigo. Of course this band has had lineup changes over the years, but we’ve all known each other for a decade and have been playing music for years.”
With one listen to Hymns of the Apocrypha, listeners might notice an old school approach to the sound, which was no accident. This album, which marks the debut of Myers as the band’s full time vocalist, definitely captures the raw essence of Suffocation, toeing a fine balance between vaulting the band into the modern era while retaining the brutal sound of previous classics like Pierced From Within, and Effigy of the Forgotten.
“The production and mixing for this album took a little longer than expected but the wait was worth it,” Hobbs said. ”We did this one more old school DIY approach, at a home studio, and then sent it to be mixed by Christian Donaldson, who did an amazing job, and this record is very organic,” Hobbs said. “The sound is raw and true to our nature. We really captured that vibe, and live energy aggression this time and it comes through. That ambience just really makes it sound great. And as far as Ricky, he did an amazing job on the vocals, it’s great to let our singer just do his thing as we focus on the music.”
Speaking of the lyrical content themes, the album has songs that focus on tales of ancient scriptures that are often hidden from the orthodox Biblical teachings. These tales speak of beings such as demons posing as gods and fallen angels who torment human beings. The record also touches upon forbidden knowledge about the origins of humanity and why we were created and our true creator(s). Embracing a different kind of macabre, the album's mysticism and Biblical lore creates a kind of darkness that more technical death metal outfits wouldn't dare, or aspire to even touch.
Hobbs said the crowd reaction to the new songs so far has been beyond enthusiastic, and that mosh pits are like they were back in the day while unleashing these track live. On their latest North American run, officially entitled Ancient Unholy Uprising, Hobbs explained how the band balances the set with four new songs from the album, in addition to the old school essentials from Suffocation's vast catalog. “We play 'Seraphim Enslavement', 'Dim Veil of Obscurity', 'Perpetual Deception' and 'Hymns From the Apocrypha', and so far fans have gone wild each time we play these songs,” Hobbs said.
When it comes to co-headlining a tour with another respected well established underground East Coast death metal band such as Incantation, Hobbs said the tour makes sense and the band has history. "We go way back with Incantation we’re from Long Island and they are from New York City, but we’d hook up and play with those guys in New Jersey or Connecticut or other shows all around that area. We started out with bands like that in the underground and it was a very DIY, tape trading kind of scene with bands like us Incantation and Mortician, and there were so many others too. But, it’s so cool to see all these bands still playing this kind of music after more than 30 years. So far the shows have been amazing, killer crowds and we’ve been having fun co-headlining with Incantation. They are great, and the openers on this tour have been amazing too, they really stepped it up!”
Hobbs said that he’s excited to be part of the community playing heavy music for fans today, which was not necessarily like it used to be decades ago. “When we were an early band and younger, we listened to anything extreme in Long Island and would play any show. For instance if DRI was playing we’d all be there. From punk, crossover, thrash, death metal, back in the day we would go to these shows,” Hobbs said. “Back in the early days, Cannibal Corpse, who were in upstate New York at the time, would play, and we’d play with them to 50 people, and it was awesome we had fun!”
Hobbs said that in the late 80s/early 90s metal scene in New York City and Long Island, hardcore was not the same as it is today like deathcore. “Today kids know deathcore, but back then, there was no deathcore,” Hobbs said. “It was either thrash/metal, or hardcore/punk; but really it was longhairs vs the skinheads mostly. There were always fans from both groups that would cause beef and frequently the violence would spill over between the metalheads and the skinheads at different shows.
Hardcore has slams, beatdowns, and breakdowns like some death metal does. So, these groups of people used to clash at shows, and it was really violent at one point. But in time but what we did with Suffocation was to keep it brutal but incorporate little parts of hardcore, thrash and try to make it our own style of death metal, and it worked. Like years later after playing in New York City we were able to have a show with Hatebreed and Suffocation and yeah, it was a bloodbath. It was sick with lots of pits and people going off, but it wasn't a group of people versus any other group of people. That beef was not there like it was back in the day.”
Hobbs said he is just happy that fans can now enjoy bands of different genres of musical extremity at shows, and looks forward to a future with this iteration of Suffocation and the cycle for Hymns From the Apocalypse. “We have a tour of Europe set for early next year, then we’ll head to Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Later in the year we plan to also do full headlining tours of North and South America, or possibly tour opening for a bigger bands. This is all still in the air, but for now we are focused on covering the planet and playing death metal for all of our fans around the world. I may be old but this music keeps me young!"
Hymns from the Apocrypha, the ninth full length album from Suffocation is now available via Nuclear Blast Records. Get the album - HERE